Farmers Market Challenge: Finding New Things

One of the cornerstones of the $40 market challenge has been exploration: exploration not only in the savings to be found at the market, but also in the local foods available, and the wonders of curiosities those foods bring to the kitchen. Prior to this challenge, I had never consumed morels, or stinging nettles. I had never heard of kalettes or celeric. But rather than fear the unknown, I’ve embraced it. My family has discovered a whole new realm of recipes thanks to those ingredients. We’ve not been limited (re: bored) week in and week out by the same, old menu plan. We’ve had failures, and we’ve had successes.

This week, we had success.

The first thing that caught my eye at the last market was the fresh fiddleheads over at Your Wildest Foods. These guys had some serious positives. I had never had fiddleheads. I had seen pickled ones at the market prior, but never fresh ones. My husband and I were debating if we had ever seen them in the grocery stores; he says no, but I’m pretty sure I saw them once years ago. Still, they’re not exactly something you see every day. These guys were beyond fresh. Matt, the local forager, had picked them alongside his batch of stinging nettles up in Hope. And that name: Fiddleheads! How can you go wrong with a name like that?

Fiddleheads: they kind of look like edible tubas!

We cooked the fiddleheads like we do asparagus, marinading in olive oil and sea salt. We first grilled them on the barbecue, which gave them a charred sweetness. The next round we sautéed them in a cast-iron frying pan, which transformed the flavour beyond sweet to a more spring-like zest, almost like a crunchy spinach. Our four-year-old loved the looks of them, but after the first bite lost interest, which meant more for me!

Rumour has it, Your Wildest Foods will soon be offering maple blossoms. You know, those beautiful flowers covering the trees lining our streets at the first glimpse of spring – apparently you can eat them! Who knew?

Market Loot:

• Fiddleheads: (1/2 pound) $8 (Your Wildest Foods)

• 1 bag microgreens: $5 (Nutrigreens)

• 1 jar rhubarb jam: $3 (Anne’s Gallery)

• 3 cans sockeye salmon: $16.50 (Wild West Coast Seafoods)

• 6 eggs: $3 (Outwest Ranch)

• 5 blueberry lemon scones: $ (Simply Scones)

Canned salmon is not a new discovery for me. My grandfather ran Canadian Fishing Company for decades and several in my family worked there as well. We may not have always had a lot of food luxuries in my house growing up, but we always had canned fish. For me, canned fish is something that typically goes into a sandwich, or atop a salad, maybe even into soup. But after purchasing salmon burgers at the market, I was intrigued to make my own.

We kept it simple: shallots, bread crumbs, eggs, salmon and Old Bay seasoning, that was it.

Full disclosure: our son was having a complete meltdown over this dinner. He wanted real burgers, not salmon burgers. It was a full-on, 10-minute tirade. He finally, begrudgingly, came to the table determined he would only eat the red peppers accompanying his meal. When he didn’t think we were looking, he took a bite: “YUM!” he exclaimed, completely forgetting his moments ago stubborness. He ate every last crumb and asked for a second helping (he never asks for a second helping), and when he didn’t finish that second helping he made a point of telling us to save it for later. He came back five minutes later and finished it off.

He wasn’t the only one that enjoyed the meal. Both my husband and I were pleasantly pleased with how well it tasted, how simple it was to prepare, and how affordable a meal it was as well.

Salmon burgers: Definitely a future repeat

I also used the salmon on a salad, in a salmon melt sandwich, and for snacking with crackers. In the past, I’ve had issues with the bones in canned salmon; they creeped me out. I don’t know if it’s a level of taste maturity, or the way Wild West Coast Seafoods prepares their canned salmon, but the bones didn’t bug me at all. (Wild West Coast Seafoods doesn’t double process; instead of canning from frozen, they can from fresh.)

Canned salmon producing a variety of quick-fix meals.

The last discovery of the day wasn’t so much a food discovery, but a person. Anne from Anne’s Gallery bulldozed me with her love for local. The Irish native pointed to every one of her jams and told me exactly where the ingredients were sourced, nearly all in her Burnaby backyard or her son’s yard in Coquitlam. What she doesn’t grow herself, like plums and boysenberries, her friends have supplied. Her marmalade is the only product she “compromises” on for going outside the local wheelhouse, and only because the oranges used can’t be grown here.

For Anne, eating local is a value that goes back to her Irish roots. “I grew up in rural Ireland; everything we had grew around us,” she told me. “We ate what we grew.”

So simple, yet so strong.

Blueberry-lemon scones (Simply scones) paired with rhubarb jam (Anne’s Gallery).